In the Bouches-du-Rhône, a caravan introduces seniors to the digital world


In the Bouches-du-Rhône, a caravan introduces seniors to the digital world

Mobile homes offer opportunities for help and recreation for the elderly in the French department

the Department of Bouches-du-Rhône, France has long displayed its public support for seniors with a view to combating their social isolation, raising their awareness of digital tools and supporting them in online administrative procedures. In this regard, in 2021 come The Houses of the Bel Age Itinerant (which translates to “Mobile homes for the elderly”) – mobile administrative offices intended for people over 60, as well as their families or caregivers.

Established throughout the Bouches-du-Rhône region (with Marseille for the city center), their vocation is to support seniors in their requests and to assist them in their administrative procedures or requests for services. The mobile teams try to make the daily life of seniors easier and help them navigate the world of the Internet and social networks.

Bringing the digital universe to remote regions

The mobile homes for the elderly are an extension of an existing and very successful project of the department – The Bel Age houses. The idea this time was to reach small towns or certain districts of large towns with few public services available for seniors. So, every week, The Bel Age houses Itinerant travel the territory of the Department to bring the digital world closer to old-fashioned people.

To do this, the authorities organized a call for tenders to select a private provider. The winner rented a caravan for 6 months and equipped it according to the given specifications; the beneficiary also provided the traction vehicle and the driver. Reception officers, on the other hand, are members of the Department’s staff.

Following the initial success of the service, the authorities launched a second appeal this time to buy a motorhome and the towing vehicle. For the moment, the General Council is leading the operation alone but hopes to receive European support funds (in particular programs dedicated to digital inclusion and local public service).

Currently, caravans offer up to 12 hours of laptop training for beginners and one-on-one coaching when using cell phones, tablets or computers. The goal is to increase the reach from 3,000 to 5,000 older people over the period 2021-2024.

In addition, and after a successful experimental phase, a new service will be added later in 2021 – the loan of up to 5,000 tablets, with a 4G plan included. These tablets will be adapted to the needs of seniors (with a simplified interface and large print).

Seniors initiated into Virtual Reality. Source: Department of Bouches-du-Rhône

however, The Bel Age houses are not only a place to learn new skills – they also take care of the psychological well-being of the elderly by giving them the chance to play games. In addition, citizens are introduced to the world of virtual reality (thanks to travel, relaxation and cognitive stimulation modules).

the Houses are also spaces promoting social ties, offering a range of leisure, sports and cultural activities, as well as weekly events, outings, workshops (memory, nutrition, health, digital) and conferences targeted on related issues with aging.

Noureddine BADER, Digital Development Manager of The Bel Age houses, at the Department of Bouches-du-Rhône told us about the innovative idea within the framework of the “EUDIGIT – European Digital Citizens” project.

He shared that the feedback they are receiving is very encouraging: “The municipalities very often ask us for the possibility of coming back for an additional week: we are already present in more than 20 municipalities or districts in less than a year and around ten new additional municipalities wish to join us. We received more than 3000 visits to the caravan. “

Caravan outsideVisitors to the service are more often than not just curious or willing to perform basic administrative operations, but they usually find out much more than what they came for. Source: Department of Bouches-du-Rhône

According to Bader, around 70% of visits were made out of curiosity – to experience the system and learn more about its mission. Then come requests for assistance with administrative procedures – tax declaration, retirement files, home assistance files, renewal of identity papers, mutual health insurance; and finally – participate in virtual reality workshops, which seem very popular with seniors.

After the initial success, it is expected that the caravan will continue to roam the territory of the department for the next 3 years. The team plans to increase partnerships with social and associative structures in the area where the caravan is installed.

Also, it is planned to set up hotlines and offer a better follow-up of user requests: the caravan is only present for one week, it is necessary to consider a follow-up. They are also considering expanding the activities offered within the caravan, to include, among other things, digital workshops on tablets, and memory loss prevention activities.

If you would like to know more about the project, contact Noureddine at noureddine.bader@departement13.fr or visit the Department 13 website.



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